Have you cried lately? If so, do you know the meaning of your tears?
It’s a complicated question. We humans are not fully transparent to ourselves—we are not fully aware of the experiences or realities that shape our emotional lives. Our tears in any situation may result from past experiences, diverse sensitivities, hormonal realities, and even how much sleep we’ve been getting. We may know there are tears running down our cheeks, but never fully know why.
This is to say nothing of the deeper biological and evolutionary bases of our tears. Perhaps human tears have been selected for because they invite sympathy and promote community well-being. Or perhaps our tears are a way of moderating anger in those who perceive them. Or maybe our tears relieve tension and allow us to function well in daily lives defined by stress.
There is so much going on when we cry. This means it is always a question of interpreting our tears, in the same way that we interpret scripture or other texts. We can do our best to explain our tears, but we likely will never fully understand them or have a definitive answer for their meaning.
If you want to infuriate an atheist, here’s a quick and easy solution: offer the opinion that atheists can’t be morally good. Even more, if you want to lead an atheist right up to the edge of apoplectic infuriation, tell him or her: “You can’t be good without God.”
The science vs. religion debate can generate some pretty animated conversations. And the more specific question of morality seems to generate some of the strongest feelings on both sides – often more heat than light. This particular blog post represents one brief exploration of that contentious question: Can atheists be good?
My answer to the question is, in the first instance, a resounding YES. At one level it’s a simple matter of logic, since what has been done can be done. We all know of good atheists: ipso facto, atheists can be morally good.
Indeed, I don’t doubt that an atheist could live a life that is morally superior to that of religious believer. An atheist may demonstrate a more loving attitude toward her spouse, or a more generous attitude with his money, or greater courage in the face of fear. Without believing in a supernatural source of morality, an atheist can live a life that is morally superior to someone who believes in just such a source. Continue reading →